Earthquakes and destruction in the west
I recently met with a good friend of mine in CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand. I had not seen Stacey since before the shakings; the multitude of earthquakes that have shaken this major city in the southern hemisphere. So when I spent a few days in the city I made sure we connected.
Let me share bring you up to speed if you have not seen New Zealand in the news recently. It seems like the world has moved on, but for Canterburians this is still reality. Wikipedia gives us a good overview of the happenings:
“The 2010 Canterbury earthquake (also known as the Christchurch earthquake or Darfield earthquake) was a 7.1 magnitude earthquake,which struck the South Island of New Zealand at 4:35 am on 4 September 2010 local time (16:35 3 September UTC).
Aftershocks have continued into 2011, with some causing significant damage themselves. The strongest to date occurred on 22 February 2011 which is so far estimated at magnitude 6.3.
166 people have been confirmed dead.
Claims from the earthquake were confirmed at being between $2.75 and $3.5 billion NZD.”
My time in Christchurch (CHC) was focused on embracing the NEW REALITY, the post earthquake, daily reality of life in CHC. I spent a few days intentionally attempting to feel the pain, embrace the reality, see the fallen buildings and reminisce about my own personal comings and goings in this city that is close to my heart. It has truly been one of my many “homes” around the world!
Stacey and I met at some random cafe, since the “normal” spots were now no longer. It was a good cheap spot and they even made me a couple eggs, an item not on the menu. Special treatment always makes me happy!
We sat and Stacey began to share. She described “loosing everyday friends”. Stacey worked in the city. She lived in the city and all of her life centered around this little, bustling, artsy, city. Not nearly anything like NYC or other major cities in the world, but a decent sized city in the midst of a nation of only 4.2 million people.
Downtown CHC had a nice mix of buildings and greenery with the Avon River winding it’s way through. Stacey had everyday comings and goings. Simple relationships with people because of proximity. Cafe’s where there would be daily chats, bus rides, even fellow workers, who she now no longer interacts with. Everything has changed. These common everyday acquaintances are no more.
The city center has turned into a black hole you can’t go into; believe me I tried! I just could not get past the military perimeter. EVERYTHING IS AFFECTED.
Stacey continued to tell me of the reality that she has lived through. Right after the quake, no grocery stores were open on the east side of town. She described a day that took 5 hours to get groceries!! This was a month after the quake, where over crowded buses and long routes caused a previously simple task to take most of the day. It felt like she was living in the 3rd world. Being one who has traveled to the 3rd world and enjoyed these kind of shopping experiences, she described how different it was being THRUST into this reality not by choice.
When you go to a place like Africa, or somewhere in the third world you expect things to be “different” and maybe even more difficult to get around. Just put yourself in these shoes. You get up to go to the store. In North America there are major grocery stores on almost every corner. Yet, envision every single local store simply shut, like they just ran out of food. Now think of somewhere on the other side of town, where you normally would never even treed. Then GO. You have to make your way over there, through road blocks and even some scattered debris. This normal task is now a whole day event, simply so you can feed your family.
So where is GOD in this?!
I took a few hours and wondered the “city” on my own. I asked myself that question, “where is GOD in this?,” as I searched through the rubble and destruction. Silt (see def below) on my shoes as I attempt to grasp the reality that is now more real to me than ever. Three months, since the “BIG ONE” (a shallow 7.1 earthquake that claimed the lives of some 150 people and devastated a country). The city center is literally no more. I have been to many cities around the globe, and CHC is one where the center of life truly is in the city center. The square, the cathedral, a symbol of the city – now are no more. You can not get within the perimeters of what once was. It is now deemed the RED ZONE and unsafe – guarded by the military.
Again I beg to question where is GOD in this?
Right there in the midst of the rubble I looked up. In this moment where I felt utterly alone wondering through rubble, I saw a cross in the form of 2 metal pieces. This may or may not have been a cross before the shakings, but I felt the Lord saying to me: “I am right here in the midst of it.” I look across the street, seeing broken church steeples and I feel His presence right there in the midst of it.
Where is GOD in this?
In the midst of depression, destruction, and uncertainty??
HE IS RIGHT THERE.
More present in those moments than ever.
More present in the silent response to death and tragedy.
More present than we could even imagine.
“A CITY IS ITS PEOPLE”
I left CHC and headed north. In my travels I picked up a newspaper in the town of Blenheim at a little cafe. My CHC experience was still quite fresh in my mind, as I started to read an article entitled: “A CITY IS ITS PEOPLE”.
At this stage people are brainstorming on how to rebuild the city, where to go from here, how to move on.
“Let the citizens take control of their city again” James Lunday-urban designer
“It is time for CHC to rediscover itself rather than re-invent itself”, says top urban design consulting firm.
I am not sure exactly how a city is suppose to bounce back after something like this. There has been a mass exodus of people simply leaving the city. CHC is no longer the 2nd largest city in the country. My hope is that the PEOPLE will rise up out of the ashes and re-discover who they are. CHRIST CHURCH. My hope is that the people will rebuild and not just the powerful money holders. My hope is that the people will re-build their hearts before they focus on the buildings.
I left the city feeling a bit of the weight that my friends and acquaintances in ChristChurch are feeling.
Dealing with depression and simply being beat down from it all.
Yet knowing the LORD is there.
Silent, waiting with open arms to embrace every child that turns to HIM.
O sometimes we need to be SHAKEN.
I hope I do not need to be shaken in order to RETURN to HIS comforting arms.
His presence that is right in the midst of every reality we face.
All was have to do is slow down long enough to LOOK UP.
Silt |silt| -noun- fine sand, clay, or other material carried by running water and deposited as a sediment, esp. in a channel or harbor.
PHOTO JOURNEY through CHC:
1. blocked city center 2. toppled cathedral 3. art center (1 of my favorites)
4. DuxDelux – a great restaurant/pub closed 5. Notes of love for DuxDelux 6. roadside steeple
7. slightly slanted street light 8. destruction 9. more destruction
10. 309-my rubble CROSS MOMENT 11. signs everywhere 12. buildings no more
13. homes destroyed